Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Darrett B. Rutman

Second Advisor

Dr. Bertram Wyatt Brown

Rights Statement

Third Advisor

Dr. Allan F. Burns


Several factors which influenced the formation of an urban black community following the Civil War are examined in this study. Prior to the war, LaVilla, a suburb of Jacksonville, Florida, was sparsely populated by wealthy white families. At war's end, freedmen seeking shelter and work took advantage of the inexpensive housing and proximity to employment LaVilla offered and, by 1870, became the majority population. The years 1866 through 1887 have been chosen for this study because they demarcate LaVilla's inception on the one hand and, on the other, its disappearance as an independent entity. Local, state, and federal records have been utilized to better understand the freedmen's decision on where to settle, finding work, securing a home, and political participation. Although an integrated community, the focus of this study is on the role of blacks in community formation. During the first twenty years of freedom, the blacks who lived in LaVilla came to organize their community along two separate and distinct paths: the social and the political. The social dimension was segregated and articulated through social networks created by family, kinship, and friendship anchored in and strengthened by the church, school, and voluntary associations. In the context of urban growth and development, these social networks would mitigate the harsh realities of poverty, unemployment, and inadequate housing. The political dimension was integrated and afforded black males power and influence concerning the civic decisions of their community. Following annexation to Jacksonville in 1887, LaVilla's blacks were removed from the political arena and disjoined from the decision-making process. As a result, the freedmen came to rely solely on the social dimension of their community.